MENDOTA – The Gillette family can trace its history in Mendota to 1855. Evidence of where its ancestors came from has been hard to find, though. Thanks to a newly published book, the family can now add an additional seven generations to its known ancestry, including early Pilgrims, Revolutionary War Patriots, and a few notable relatives.
The book, “Gillette Family History and Genealogy from Canaan, CT to Mendota, IL,” was published in July (TEN16 Press, Waukesha, Wis.). Author Richard J. Warp, visited Mendota last week to donate a copy of the book to the Graves-Hume Public Library and to the LaSalle County Genealogy Guild in Ottawa. Both locations served as sources of information during the seven years Warp spent solving the mystery of the Gillette line.
The book spans over 400 years of the Gillette family, dating back to its voyage on the Mayflower in 1620 and the Mary and John in 1630. The Gillette family settled in Connecticut during the 1700s and 1800s, before Franklin Gillette and family came to Mendota in 1855.
Richard’s father, Richard D. Warp, started exploring the Gillette family history in 2002. His father suspected, but was unable to prove, that the Mendota Gillettes were related to Jonathan Gillette, a Revolutionary War solider. When he passed away in 2010, he left his son several boxes of genealogy paper-work and family trees. After five trips to Mendota and one trip to Connecticut, Richard was able to complete the work his father started, solve the mystery, and write-up the lineage for future generations.
In 1776, Jonathan Gillette, Sr. served under the command of George Washington in the Battle of Long Island. His son, Jonathan Gillette, Jr. also served in the Revolutionary War. Both father and son were captured, taken prisoner, and later freed. Their story is one of bravery and suffering. With sufficient proof of his lineage to Jonathan Gillette, Richard was awarded membership into the Sons of the American Revolution (S.A.R.) society this year.
The Gillette family is also related to: King Camp Gillette (famous razor inventor and founder of the Gillette company), Benjamin Franklin, and George Steinbrenner (Yankees’ owner).
Richard’s maternal grandmother, born Dorothy Gillette, grew up in Mendota in the 1920s and moved to the Chicago area in the 1930s. Dorothy and her daughter often visited family in Mendota through the 1960s. Richard and his mother made several trips back to Mendota in search of the dozens of relatives buried in the cemetery.
Today, the family is spread across the county. However, thanks to Facebook and Ancestry, many of Richard’s second- through sixth-cousins have reunited. Ancestry DNA testing helped identify three blood relatives who were given up for adoption as children. As a result of his second-cousin, Amanda Arndt’s, hard work and persistence, the family was able to identify the parents of all three adopted children and prove how they are all related, introducing them to each other and a previously unknown family.
Richard met with his first-cousin once-removed, Pamela Gillette, to give her copies of the book. Pamela is the fifth consecutive Gillette generation to live in Mendota; her son and grandchildren are the sixth and seventh generations. Richard is giving a book to each living descendant in the extended family. During his visit from Wisconsin, Richard met Pamela Gillette at the First State Bank to see a picture of Bud & Dolly Gillette’s Subway Cafe restaurant and gas station.